Sand County Almanac

Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac: and sketches Here and There. Read by Cassandra Campbell. New York: Penguin Audio, 2020.

Reason read: Turtleback Zoo opened in the month of June. Read to honor a place that I used to love to visit. This zoo always treated their animals with such care. It has been years since I lasted visited. It could be completely different now.

There are certain books in the world you can’t help but try to read all in one sitting. They draw you in and you can’t find your way out of the pages until you reach the final words of The and End. A Sand County Almanac is one such book, especially as an audio read by Cassandra Campbell. Hour after hour would rush by as I got lost in Aldo’s world. I could hear the calling of the birds in the fields, the rattle of dried leaves in the oak trees signifying winter is on its way, and the gurgling rush of the stream as it stubbed its toes on rocks worn smooth. Leopold’s observations were so warm I couldn’t help but think if he were alive today, he and Josh Ritter would be friends.

Author fact: Leopold smoked. Okay, so it’s not the most enlightening fact, but it shocked me nonetheless. I like my naturalists without vices.

Book trivia: Barbara Kingsolver wrote the introduction to Sand County Almanac.

Nancy said: Pearl called A Sand County Almanac a “beautifully written classic.” Another interesting point. Pearl points out a section I found particularly intriguing. As Leopold saws through a fallen oak on his property he recounts historical moments the tress has lived through, ring by ring. Pearl called this section “transcendent” and I couldn’t agree more.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 500s ” (p 70).


Flight Behavior

Kingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior. New York: HarperPerennial, 2012.

Reason read: I love, love, love Kingsolver’s writing. Challenge be damned!

“A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and that is one part rapture” (p 1). This is the very first sentence in Flight Behavior. The thing about Kingsolver’s writing is that she has the ability to look at the human condition and give it emotions and intelligence. How many of us have been slightly excited about ruining our lives in some manner? There is a certain buzz about the brain when the potential for destruction shows itself. Like imagining yourself hurtling out of a speeding vehicle, your hand reaching for the latch…
Dellarobia is a young housewife trapped by circumstance: uneducated, having only graduated from high school; untraveled and naive, never setting foot outside her backwoods county. She is rooted in place with two small children, always bowing down to the criticisms of an overbearing mother-in-law who still has her son wrapped around her little finger. Dellarobia’s entire life has been one pitfall after another. Marrying her high school boyfriend after he gets her pregnant locks her into the only relationship she’s even known. Poverty has kept her stuck in a never ending cycle day in and day out. So when the opportunity for small indulgences dance into view, she takes them in the form of hopeless crushes and fantasies of infidelity. She was on her way to meet her newest flame; on her way to finally overstepping that boundary of no return when something scared her into going back. Vanity had forced Dellarobia to leave her glasses behind when she hikes up a mountain to meet her illicit love interest. Through the blur a burning fire appeared, changing her life forever.

Lines I loved (out of a million), “Plenty of people took this way out, looking future damage in the eye and naming it something else” (p 1), and “If she could pretend ice cream flavored breakfast snacks did not cause obesity, he might overlook the less advantageous aspects of lung cancer” (p 169).

Author fact: Kingsolver is partly responsible for my love affair with the southwest. Because of her I dream of visiting Arizona.

Book trivia: I read a lot of interviews where readers are disappointed with Kingsolver’s didactic storytelling. Get over it, people! Kingsolver is like that rock musician who needs to tell you about Amnesty International or Planned Parenthood, or how our current political landscape sucks. When the public builds a celebrity a soapbox high enough to see over all the bullsh!t he or she going to stand on that soapbox to say something important to them. How could they not?


Secret Knowledge of Water

Childs, Craig. The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert. Seattle: Sasquatch, 2000.

Reason read: I’m reading this for several reasons. The original reason was since this is a nature book and John Muir’s birth month is in April I wanted to read this in his honor. Second reason is Earth Day being in April. Duh. Third (and probably most important reason…) I am headed to Arizona in the next month!

I just finished a harrowing tale that involved desperate illegal immigrants trying to brave the scorching harsh desert to make it to the promised land of the United States. Images of Mexican refugees left to die of thirst, roasting in the arid desert played through my mind as I read Craig Childs’s Secret Knowledge of Water. Childs willingly and eagerly traverses this seemingly barren landscape; bringing his readers through ravines and canyons; vast wastelands that look like the epitome of nothingness. But, pay attention to Childs’s lyrical language and a new desert starts to form before our eyes. Dripping caverns create pools of water rich with organisms.
There is an egotistical slant to my interest in a subject or rather, my attention to reading about it. Secret Knowledge of Water was interesting enough but it became more fascinating when Child talked of specific areas I plan to visit in May.

Lines I liked because I am in love with the night sky, “hysterical swarming of stars” (p 14), and “Then the stars took everything” (p 41).
Other lines I liked, “The world changed color when you think you might doe soon” (p 235), and “The entire Grand Canyon is thus a machine devised to capture and drive flash floods” (p 242).

Author fact: Childs also wrote The Animal Dialogues which is on my Challenge list. At the time of Secret’s publication he was a river guide.

Book trivia: The Secret Knowledge of Water does not contain photographs but it does have illustrations.

Nancy said: Pearl wanted to mention another book by Childs but since it was not specifically about Arizona she settled on Secret Knowledge.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 30).


Appealing to April

I have a ridiculous number of books planned for this month. I have no idea what I was thinking.

Fiction:

  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope – in honor of Trollope’s birth month being in April.
  • City and the House by Natalie Ginsberg – in honor of April being Letter Writing month.
  • All Souls by Javier Marias – in honor of Oxford Jazz Festival traditionally being in April.
  • All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor – in honor of April being Sibling month and in honor of Library Week.

Nonfiction:

  • The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs – in honor of John Muir’s birth month (and the fact we are visiting Arizona soon).
  • Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins – in honor of Library Week.

Series continuations:

  • Hunting Season by Nevada Barr to finish the series read out of order.
  • The Game by Laurie R. King – to finish the series started in honor of Female Mystery month.
  • Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith – to finish the series started in honor of Smith’s birth month.
  • The Council of the Cursed by Peter Tremayne – to continue the series started in honor of Tremayne’s birth month.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • From Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwiemana.

Cry of the Kalahari

Owens, Mark and Delia. Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa’s Last Great Wilderness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Press, 1984.

Reason read: Mark and Delia Owens were married in the month of December. Read this in honor of their anniversary.

In 1974 Mark and Delia headed to Africa to start a research project just one year after their wedding day. Cry of the Kalahari is the story of their seven years in the Kalahari Desert. Taking turns, they share their experiences living with brown hyenas, lion prides, and unpredictable jackals, among many other animals. Because most of the animals have never seen humans before they are neither threatened or antagonized by Mark and Delia’s presence. At face value, Cry of the Kalahari is romantic and idealistic.

Admittedly, I have a few issues with Cry of the Kalahari, beginning with the trivial. One, how many times they mentioned the temperatures being 120 degrees in the shade. You are in the Kalahari desert! What did you expect?
Two, their so-called research. They went to Kalahari not really sure what they wanted to work on. When they discovered there was little known about the brown hyena they set about to learn all they could about the species, then they added jackals, and yet after Bones, a male lion, was murdered by hunters they changed their focus to protecting all wildlife of the Kalahari. By the end of the book their focus had widened to include wildebeest. How they received funding for such vague and vast research is beyond me. However, the couple is quick to point out Cry of the Kalahari is not detailed report of their research. That will show up elsewhere they promised.
My third issue is probably the most personal. They claimed over and over they didn’t want to interfere with the wildlife because it would change the validity of their research. They cried as animals starved to death outside their food-laden tent. Yet they had no problem performing a makeshift surgery on Bones, a lion who had broken his leg, or smearing motor oil on Blue, another lion who suffered from parasites. Most likely both of these animals would have died without human intervention. Essentially, the Owenes actions disrupted the circle of life in the Kalahari.

As an aside, the description of the cheetah hitting the wire fence at 70 miles an hour is heart breaking.

Author(s) fact(s): The Owenses are no strangers to the media spotlight. They have been on numerous talk shows. 

Book trivia: there is a generous selection of color photographs in Cry of the Kalahari, along with a smaller section of black and whites.

Nancy said: Pearl was actually talking about another book written by the Owenses when she mentioned Cry. Interestingly enough, in relation to Cry Pearl said Mark and Delia were “expelled from Botswana” because of this book (Book Lust To Go p 267).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Zambia” (p 266). Confessional: I deleted Cry Of the Kalahari from the true list of books I needed to read for the Challenge because Cry does not take place in Zambia.


Cactus Eaters

White, Dan. The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind – and Almost Found Myself – On the Pacific Crest Trail. New York: Harper Perennial, 2008.

Reason read: June is National Hiking Month.

Pure fun. From the comfort of my couch I took great pleasure in reading about Dan White’s adventures while hiking the 2,650+ mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. With his girlfriend Allison for companionship Dan’s account is in turn both funny and didactic. He can be snarky and scholarly in a single sentence. What starts out as an avoidance of the real world turns into a journey of self reflection and maybe, just maybe, a little growing up.
What makes Cactus such a pleasure to read is this is Dan’s account of the first time he hiked the PCT. He has no idea what he’s doing, despite reading up on it in the months leading up to the hike. He isn’t a seasoned through-hiker expertly navigating arid blazing hot deserts. He isn’t a blase professional warding off bear visits with a ho hum attitude. He is cocky in his naivete.

All time favorite line, “I could not stop the racing thoughts about Todd the Sasquatch somewhere out there, tearing up the foothills while exuding massive amounts of man sweat” (p 63).

Author fact: I could tell from the songs White enjoyed singing while on the PCT that he is about my age. An internet search revealed he was born just a few years before me.

Book trivia: The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles long and covers three countries and yet White doesn’t include a single map or photograph. To be fair, his camera didn’t have film in it for part of the trip and he did include one illustration of a journal entry.

Nancy said: Nancy dedicates 25% of the chapter to describing the plot of Cactus Eaters, but not much else.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hiking the (Fill in the Blank) Trail” (p 94). Confessional: this the second book I am reading from the chapter and I just now noticed while Pearl mentions the four major long-distance trails in the Americas, she only recommends four books. Three of them are about the PCT and the final one is about the Appalachian Trail. Why bring up the Continental Divide or the American Discovery Trail if you aren’t going to include a book or two about them? There certainly was room for a few more recommendations for the chapter.


“Wild Geese”

Oliver, Mary. “Wild Geese.” Wild Geese: Selected Poems. Bloodaxe, 2004.

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month

The title poem “Wild Geese” is a small slice of heaven in words. Taking just a little over a minute to read, it sends a mighty message. It’s all about hope, inspiration and self worth in the grand scheme of things. Nature is all around us and we are a part of it. We belong in the universe.

Author fact: YouTube has great videos of Mary Oliver reading “Wild Geese.” They are amazing. Check them out.

Poem trivia: I think everyone likes to quote “Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Poetry Pleasers” (p 187). As an aside, this is a the last poem I had to read for the chapter. As soon as I read Perrine’s Sound and Sense I will be finished with the entire chapter.


Silly Rabbit Comes Early

Month five of the Challenge. I have made a decision. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t like this big long list with book titles crossed off. While the list of books finished looks impressive I’m not liking the overall concept. I will stick this list thing out for this year, but come December we’re doing something different. Don’t know what yet but definitely something different. Here are all the books for the year with the books for April in bold:

  1. Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  2. In a Strange City by Laura Lippman
  3. By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman (AB)
  4. Recognitions by William Gaddis (DNF)
  5. Maus by Art Spiegelman
  6. Lady Franklin’s Revenge by Ken McGoogan
  7. Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Diaz (AB)
  8. Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  9. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
  10. Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
  11. ADDED: A Good Doctor’s Son by Steven Schwartz
  12. ADDED: Drinking: a Love Story by Caroline Knapp
  13. ADDED: Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak
  14. ADDED: Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout
  15. ADDED: Treasure Hunter by W. Jameson (ER)
  16. Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Jan)
  17. ADDED: The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat (AB)
  18. ADDED: In Xanadu by William Dalrymple
  19. ADDED: The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  20. Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose
  21. Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore
  22. Greater Nowheres by David Finkelstein/Jack London
  23. ADDED: Alma Mater by P.F Kluge
  24. ADDED: Old Man & Me by Elaine Dundy
  25. ADDED: Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
  26. Good Life by Ben Bradlee
  27. Underworld by Don DeLillo
  28. Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban
  29. Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton
  30. Fires From Heaven by Robert Jordan
  31. Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce DNF
  32. Herb ‘n’ Lorna by Eric Kraft
  33. Polish Officer by Alan Furst – AB
  34. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (Mar)
  35. ADDED: Walden by Henry David Throreau
  36. ADDED: Reservations Recommended by Eric Kraft (Mar/Feb)
  37. ADDED: Selected Letters of Norman Mailer edited by J. Michael Lennon – ER (Feb /Mar)
  38. Chasing Monarchs by Robert Pyle (Mar)
  39. ADDED: Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur (Mar)
  40. Bebe’s By Golly Wow by Yolanda Joe (Mar)
  41. Lives of the Muses by Francine Prose (Mar)
  42. Broom of the System (David Wallace (Mar)
  43. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (Apr)
  44. ADDED: Little Follies by Eric Kraft (Apr/Feb)
  45. ADDED: Literary Murder by Batya Gur (Apr)
  46. ADDED: Bob Marley, My Son by Cedella Marley Booker (ER)
  47. ADDED: Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Mar)
  48. ADDED: Southern Mail by Antoine de Saint- Exupery (Mar/Apr)
  49. ADDED: Measure of All Things, the by Ken Alder (Apr) AB
  50. Two Gardeners by Emily Wilson (Apr)
  51. Royal Flash by George Fraser (Apr)
  52. Fifties by David Halberstam (Apr)
  53. Binding Spell by Elizabeth Arthur (Apr)
  54. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  55. Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  56. ADDED: Where Do You Stop? by Eric Kraft (May/Feb)
  57. Murder on a Kibbutz by Batya Gur (May)
  58. Flash for Freedom! by George Fraser (May)
  59. Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma (May)
  60. Petra: lost city by Christian Auge (May)
  61. From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman (May)
  62. Jordan by E. Borgia (May)
  63. Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill (May)
  64. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (May)
  65. Flash at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser (May)
  66. ADDED: What a Piece of Work I Am by Eric Kraft (Jun/Feb)
  67. Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett (Jun)
  68. Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (Jun)
  69. Thirty-three Teeth by Colin Cotterill (Jun)
  70. Millstone by Margaret Drabble (Jun)
  71. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  72. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  73. At Home with the Glynns by Eric Kraft (Jul/Feb)
  74. Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill (Jul)
  75. Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme (Jul)
  76. New Physics and Cosmology by Arthur Zajonc (Jul)
  77. Grifters by Jim Thompson (Jul)
  78. Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (Jul)
  79. Snow Angels by James Thompson (Jul)
  80. Ararchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill (Aug)
  81. ADDED: Leaving Small’s Hotel by Eric Kraft (Aug/Feb)
  82. Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser (Aug)
  83. Possession by AS Byatt (Aug)
  84. In the Footsteps of Ghanghis Khan by John DeFrancis (Aug)
  85. What Just Happened by James Gleick (Aug)
  86. Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (Aug)
  87. ADDED: Inflating a Dog by Eric Kraft (Sep/Feb)
  88. Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill (Sep)
  89. Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser (Sep)
  90. Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett (Sep)
  91. Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood (Sep)
  92. Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Sep)
  93. Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Sep)
  94. Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (Oct)
  95. Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill (Oct)
  96. Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett (Oct)
  97. Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser (Oct)
  98. Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman (Nov)
  99. Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Collin Cotterill (Nov)
  100. Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser (Nov)
  101. Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett (Nov)
  102. Andorra by Peter Cameron (Nov)

DNF = Did Not Finish; AB = Audio Book; ER = Early Review


Walden

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden or, Life in the Woods. New York: Signet Classic, 1980.

There are several words that come to mind when I think of Thoreau and his work, Walden. Right up front I have to say Walden is important, even necessary. Every student needs to read it at least once in his or her academic career, whether it be high school, college or as a postgraduate. As I said it’s important. But, there are other words that bubble to the surface as I read: didactic, preachy, bloviate. If Thoreau had kept his commentary restricted to his personal efforts to live a simple life and not generalized all of mankind it would have been a less frustrating read. At least for me. Case in point, Walden borrows an axe from a neighbor to build his house. He feels the need to point out “The owner of the axe, as he released his hold on it, said that it was the apple of his eye; but I returned it sharper than I received it” (p 32). His implication is, despite what the man said Thoreau cared for the instrument better than the owner. Couldn’t he just been grateful for borrowing the damned axe? As a former islander who lived on very little I know the importance of living simply. I just wish the reminder didn’t come as such a lecture.

As an aside, when Mailer read Walden he wasn’t impressed.

Reason read: Massachusetts became a state in February.

Author fact: Thoreau is probably better known for his work, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.

Book trivia: My copy of Walden included an afterword by Perry Miller and a revised and updated bibliography.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Walk Right In” (p 250).


Chasing Monarchs

Pyle, Robert Michael. Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.

Robert Michael Pyle (I just like using his whole name) set out to answer three questions about monarch butterflies:

  1. How do they physically do the migrating that they do?
  2. Do they navigate or follow the wind? and lastly,
  3. Why do some monarchs end up in Mexico and others in California.

My off the cuff answers would be: 1) They train. 2) Both navigation and following the wind (I like to think of butterflies riding the jet stream), and 3) I think the ones who didn’t train hard enough for Mexico, when they reached CA, said, “close enough!” I know I would!

Much like Where Bigfoot Walks, Chasing Monarchs is all about chasing something elusive, something nearly impossible to track. Like Bigfoot, Chasing Monarchs is awash with lush descriptions of the landscapes Pyle traverses; this time British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Nevada and California with a little dip into Mexico. I find it amazing Pyle was able to tag butterflies without hurting them. What I didn’t notice with Bigfoot is Pyle’s kaleidoscope use of colors. Here are a bunch of them from Chasing Monarchs: sage, umber, bronze, blonde, amethyst, yellow, ocher, brown, yellow, burnt sienna, apricot, coral, conch, mauve, french vanilla, buff, crimson, purple, chartreuse, beige, gold, green, cerise, emerald, indigo, jade, honey, cream, blue, copper, lime, olive, turquoise, chocolate, maroon, flesh, silver, lemon, rust, fawn, blueberry, pearl, ultramarine, wheat, cinnamon, rose, russet, persimmon, tan, and scarlet. Then there are the hyphenated colors: ham-pink, chalky-white, Mylar-blue, marine-blue, toast-brown, fox-red, fire-engine red, candy-apple red, matte-black, coal-black, and cat-black. And all the oranges: mandarin-orange, orange-juice, orange-yellow, oriole-orange, Halloween-orange, yellow-orange and lox-orange. I’m sure I’ve missed a few. One aspect of color that I didn’t appreciate is that Mr. Pyle needed to describe black folks. He doesn’t say, “I met up with so-and-so, a white woman from Omaha” but he will point out “the black family on the banks fishing.”

Reason read: March is supposedly insect month. Yay bugs!

Author fact: Pyle also wrote Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide which I read in September of 2010. I also learned that Pyle is a man who likes to name inanimate objects. His butterfly net is Marsha. His car is Powdermilk. He has an ornament hanging from his rear-view mirror named Danae.

Book trivia: Unfortunately, even though Pyle states that most people call all big and beautiful orange and black butterflies “monarchs” he doesn’t include any photographs to educate people on the differences. I would have liked some lush, vivid photographs! Even some illustrations would have been nice.

As an aside, I had been very excited to read Chasing Monarchs for some time now. Monhegan Island has annual migration of monarchs every late summer/early fall. As kids we used to watch their fiery orange and black wings beat against reedy pale green milkweeds by the dozens. Also, I would like to thank Mr. Pyle on clearing up a mystery for me. Monhegan has these weird orange spaghetti-like vines growing down at Pebble Beach. I have always wanted to look them up. I now know they are called Dodder weeds.

Convergence: Reading this was a natural extension of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 500s” (p 70).


Changing It Up January

A new year deserves new things; new ways of thinking and new ways of doing. Here is the list I promised in December. Instead of separating the list into “finished” and “still to go”, I thought for this go-round I would just cross off the titles I finished. This system will force me to stay on top of the books I add, but we’ll see…Just testing something…

As an aside, I gave up completely on Robert Jordan. Sorry.

  1. Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (DNF)
  2. In a Strange City by Laura Lippman
  3. By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman (AB)
  4. Recognitions by William Gaddis (DNF)
  5. Maus by Art Spiegelman
  6. Lady Franklin’s Revenge by Ken McGoogan
  7. Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Diaz (AB)
  8. Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  9. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
  10. Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
  11. ADDED: A Good Doctor’s Son by Steven Schwartz
  12. ADDED: Drinking: a Love Story by Caroline Knapp
  13. ADDED: Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak
  14. ADDED: Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout
  15. ADDED: Treasure Hunter by W. Jameson (ER)
  16. Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Jan)
  17. Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose (Jan)
  18. Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore (Jan)
  19. Greater Nowheres by David Finkelstein/Jack London (Jan)
  20. ADDED: Alma Mater by P.F Kluge (Jan)
  21. Good Life by Ben Bradlee (Feb)
  22. Underworld by Don DeLillo (Feb)
  23. Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban (Feb)
  24. Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton ((Feb)
  25. Fires From Heaven by Robert Jordan (Feb)
  26. Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce (Feb)
  27. At Home with the Glynns by Eric Kraft (Feb)
  28. Polish Officer by Alan Furst (Feb)
  29. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (Mar)
  30. Chasing Monarchs by Robert Pyle (Mar)
  31. Murder on a Kibbutz by Batya Gur (Mar)
  32. Bebe’s By Golly Wow by Yolanda Joe (Mar)
  33. Lives of the Muse by Francine Prose (Mar)
  34. Broom of the System (David Wallace (Mar)
  35. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (Apr)
  36. Two Gardeners by Emily Wilson (Apr)
  37. Royal Flash by George Fraser (Apr)
  38. Fifties by David Halberstam (Apr)
  39. Binding Spell by Elizabeth Arthur (Apr)
  40. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (Apr)
  41. Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan (May)
  42. Flash for Freedom! by George Fraser (May)
  43. Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma (May)
  44. Petra: lost city by Christian Auge (May)
  45. From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman (May)
  46. Jordan by E. Borgia (May)
  47. Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill (May)
  48. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (May)
  49. Flash at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser (May)
  50. Castles in the Air by Judt Corbett (Jun)
  51. Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (Jun)
  52. Thirty-three Teeth by Colin Cotterill (Jun)
  53. Millstone by Margaret Drabble (Jun)
  54. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan (Jun)
  55. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan (Jul)
  56. Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill (Jul)
  57. Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme (Jul)
  58. New Physics and Cosmology by Arthur Zajonc (Jul)
  59. Grifters by Jim Thompson (Jul)
  60. Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (Jul)
  61. Snow Angels by James Thompson (Jul)
  62. Ararchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill (Aug)
  63. Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser (Aug)
  64. Possession by AS Byatt (Aug)
  65. In the Footsteps of Ghanghis Khan by John DeFrancis (Aug)
  66. What Just Happened by James Gleick (Aug)
  67. Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (Aug)
  68. Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill (Sep)
  69. Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser (Sep)
  70. Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett (Sep)
  71. Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood (Sep)
  72. Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Sep)
  73. Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Sep)
  74. Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (Oct)
  75. Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill (Oct)
  76. Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett (Oct)
  77. Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser (Oct)
  78. Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman (Nov)
  79. Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Collin Cotterill (Nov)
  80. Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser (Nov)
  81. Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett (Nov)
  82. Andorra by Peter Cameron (Nov)

DNF = Did Not Finish;AB = Audio Book; ER = Early Review

So, right off the bat I see something I don’t like. When I add new books they don’t get their “day in the sun” so to speak. I add them to the list and then cross them off immediately. That doesn’t seem fair.


“The Road Not Taken”

Frost, Robert. “the Road Not Taken.” The Road Not Taken and Other Poems.New York: Dover Publications, 1993.

This is such a simple poem with such a complex meaning! But, having said that, how many people have used this poem to explain the things that they have done; the decisions they have made? My uncle read this poem at his brother’s funeral. His message was clear – my father, seven years his junior, chose a much different path than him or even the rest of the family. My father chose love over money. Happiness over family. My uncle offered this poem as an explanation for why they weren’t close as brothers but I also think he was (finally) voicing how proud he was of that courageous decision “to take the road less traveled.” It’s the last line that drives the point home. It has made all the difference. I know it did in my father’s short life.

Reason read: National Poetry Month. Need I say more?

Author fact: Robert Frost is one of the best known, best loved poets. We also associate Frost with New England but he was born in California.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers’ Tales in Verse” (p 237).


“Road and the End”

Sandburg, Carl. Complete Poems. “The Road and the End.” New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1950. p 43.

I see a solitary traveler planning to face whatever comes his way on his journey. He has anticipation of the road ahead and the hours spent going down it. I say anticipation…for he hasn’t left yet. “I SHALL” indicates a plan to do so. The capitalization indicates a determination; a desire to convince someone (maybe himself?) he will eventually leave. It’s a nod to nature. Perfect timing for the changing seasons and hopefully, the warmer weather.

I took this poem personally as I have been slow to start training for my 60 mile cancer walk at the end of May. The apathy I was feeling spread into neglecting my favorite charity event. For the first time in five years I haven’t walked down my road of training the way that I should be by now…to say nothing of the fund raising (which sucks, by the way).

Favorite line, “in the silence of the morning.” Can anyone guess why?

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month…as I’ve said before.

Author fact: Carl Sandburg died two years before my birth. He is the second Chicago poet I’ve read this month.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travelers Tales in Verse” (p 237).


October ’12 was…

October 2012 was started out to sea. We landed on Monhegan sandwiched between the bustling start of Trap Day and the slowing end of tourist season. As a nod to the death of summer we readied our psyches to the coming winter. The island had shed its summer greens and stood cloaked in red rust brown and burnt yellow hues. Hiking the trails was at once magical and sobering. It was easy to curl up with a good book every night and read for at least two hours straight (something I never get to do at home unless it’s an off day). And speaking of the books, here they are:

  • Persian Boy by Mary Renault ~ a continuation of the series about Alexander the Great. I started this in September to keep the story going.
  • Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley ~ in honor of Halloween (duh). Probably one of my favorite books of the month. I read this in three days.
  • The Outermost House: a year of life on the great beach of Cape Cod by Henry Beston ~ in honor of October being Animal Month. The best book for me to read on an island; finished it in three days.
  • Lives of the Painters, Vol. 1 by Giorgio Vasari ~ in honor of October being Art Appreciation month. This was just ridiculous to read. There were a lot of errors according to the translator. I ended up skipping every biography that had a contradiction or error in it.As a result, finished it in two weeks.
  • Hackers edited by Jack Dann ~ in honor of October being Computer Awareness month. This was cool to read. I read three stories a night and finished it in four days.
  • The Dialect of Sex: the Case For Feminist Revolution by Shulamith Firestone ~ in honor of breast cancer awareness month and strong women everywhere. I didn’t completely finish this, but I got the gist of it.
  • The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan ~ in honor of the Amsterdam marathon taking place in October. I read this in four and a half days. Easy and very entertaining!
  • The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd ~in honor of Ackroyd’s birth month. This was short, a little over 200 pages, but I took my time reading it – almost three weeks!

The audio book I chose for October was The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell. This took forever to listen to! I felt like I was constantly plugged into the story. I listened to it on the drive home from Maine, to and from work everyday. even while I was working out, while I cooking. It was a great story, worth every hour between the earphones. Can’t wait to read other Mankell stories!

For LibraryThing’s Early Review program I read Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave Introduced French Cuisine to America by Thomas J. Craughwell. While I thought I would enjoy this book (TJ is one of my favorite past presidents and I’m wild about food) it fell a little flat for me. I stopped reading on page 200. I also started reading Clay by Melissa Harrison. It was refreshing to get a first-time fiction from LibraryThing!

One thing that I failed to mention about October (and this is related to the books) is that I am back to requesting books from other libraries! Yay yay yay! This was halted in June of 2011 because we were switching ILSs and at the time I figured it would be a good opportunity to read what was on my own shelf and in my own library. Now, nearly 17 months later I am back to having hundreds of libraries to order from. Thank gawd!

We ended October with a freak storm people were calling Frankenstorm in honor of being so close to Halloween. Although we prepared like hell we saw little damage, thankfully. My thoughts and prayers go out to those in New Jersey and New York. It’s sad to see my old haunts get battered around so…


Outermost House

Beston, Henry. The Outermost House: a Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1988.

Even though Cape Cod is nothing like Monhegan Island this was a great read for vacation.

Henry Beston built a two room house on Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Originally the house was designed to be a summer getaway cabin but after two weeks Beston decided to see what it would be like to spend a year on the beach. During that time he wrote a memoir of the experience, recording everything he saw, heard, smelled, touched and experienced. As a result he published The Outermost House which became a best seller. Along the lines of Thoreau, Beston was enamored with living the simple life and experiencing nature in it most raw form. There were many times I found myself agreeing with Beston or being envious of his adventure. Even the storms that blew up the beach produced fascinating fodder for Beston’s book.

Favorite lines: “On its solitary dune my house faced the four walls of the world” (p 9), “Listen to the surf, really lend it your ears, and you will hear in it a world of sounds: hollow boomings and heavy roarings, great watery tumblings and tramplings, long hissing seethes, sharp riffle-shot reports, splashes, whispers, the grinding undertone of stones, and sometimes vocal sounds that might be the half-heard talk of people in the sea” (p 43) and one more, “Wraiths of memories began to take shape” (p 216).

Author Fact: Well, this fact isn’t about Beston. It’s about his house. His cabin on Cape Cod was named a national literary landmark until it was destroyed in the blizzard of 1978.

Book Trivia: Beston’s wife wouldn’t marry him until he had finished The Outermost House.

Reason read: October is National Animal Month.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Wild Life” (p 244).